Back to the 50’s is a 3-part series by Ray Y. Read Part 1: “Back To The Early 50’s“.
Well to continue, by the mid 50’s times was a changin’, most of us had some sort of vehicle we were able to keep running. Regular gas was about $.21cents per gal. and Ethel was about $.25, and that was for 100-plus octane. By now most of us were hangin out at Charlie Sphans Texaco station. (He could fix anything). Besides his son Mike hung out with us. He was always makin a run for burgers to the White Castle, or the Power House. That’s where they had those little bitty burgers and you could get either 4 or 6 for a buck. Afterwards, everyone chewed on a toothpick or Blackjack or Clove chewing gum (That was before Doublemint and Juicy Fruit). Only the young kids did the Sugar Daddy all day suckers and the bubble gum thing. It wasn’t cool to have popped bubbles stuck to your face.
At night, before going home, we usually stopped at that new donut place called Spudnut for a donut and coffee. It gave the local Fuzz (police) a chance to see we were not out getting into trouble cuz they hung out there too. They must have got a kick outa seeing a bunch of hoods sittin’ on the curb or standing around flicking their Zippo lighters. Some of the cool tricks were swiping it down your pant leg to open it and swiping it back up to light it, or one handed flipping the top to open it, then snapping your fingers across the wheel to light it. We didn’t smoke much but sure went through the Red Devil flints.
There were about a dozen of us at any one time hanging out. That depended on who had a job or a steady girlfriend. There was six-foot-three skinny Bud Wright and his ’38 Harley with a broken muffler that shot blue flames, when it started. He thought he was Marlon Brando from the ‘Wild Ones’. The rest of us were like Vic Marrow in Black Board Jungle. (That’s back when the male teachers wore neckties). Jerome Roser had a 36 Plymouth coupe. Painted Highway yellow, cuz his dad worked for the Hwy. Dept. and got it free. (Damn it was ugly). Walt Seib, Bill (Mouse) Gregory, and myself had 36 Ford coupes. Frank Mckay’s 36 Ford roadster. Paul (Hoot) Gatzek, 34 Plymouth Tudor (lavender with white interior) Dave (Web) Pierce, 40 Chevy. Jim (Rebel) Reigel had a 34 Ford 3-window coupe. (Channeled, dual carbs, reversed rims, and no floor boards) Bob Malott’s 40 Ford tudor, (dual carbs, and brown primer,” We called it turkey turd tan”). Alan (Hawkeye) Hawkins, had a 41 International PU, and Gerry Nichols in a 31 Chevy sedan (without the center section top).
Most of these cars had Cadillac sombrero or single bar flipper hubcaps, were nosed, decked, and lowered. Mine got spray painted George Washington Blue with my moms Eletralux vacuum cleaner in our unheated old wooden garage, with a dirt floor an a single pull chain, light bulb. We even took pictures of it with Bob’s new camera, the one that used blue flash bulbs.
We were into watchin’ American Bandstand and collectin’ 45 records. Dick Clark had just made the scene with Bill Haley and the Comets, (Elvis hadn’t arrived yet). The younger kids liked Howdy Doody.
Afterwards we would all go downtown. (Cuz everybody went downtown). We would park in a lot behind Kenny and Bob’s Sport Bar. Then go in the back door and shoot pool. We couldn’t go to the front room – that’s where the bookmakers and the card players hung out and the liquor was sold. You could hear the rumba and cha cha music from upstairs where there was an Arthur Murray dance studio. We thought it was all old folks up there, but his motto was (if you can walk upstairs, you can learn to dance).
Well I traded my old Ford for a 47 Chevy Business coupe and had it painted Passionate Pink. Split the manifold, added glass packs, and with my moms sewing machine we did a white tuck and roll interior. Since there wasn’t any back seat, just a board, a crib mattress fit perfectly in the space. I covered it with a pink chenille blanket and white throw pillows to set the whole thing off. (Man I was bio freolie el’ gatos tail) That’s Spanish ya know.
I had just met Bunnie Ahaus and made my first date to take her to a drive in movie. I was on top of the world with my cool car and black leather jacket. When I pulled up in front of her house backin’ off in second gear rappin’ those pipes, her daddy came out on the front porch. He was a BIG man. He looked down at my car and walked down the steps to check it out. That’s a pretty fancy set of wheels ya got their sonny. Yes sir, I replied. Beaming and feelin proud. He walked around the car slowly, then looked inside. “What’s this here in the back seat” he asked? “Well sir, sometimes I stay out late at night so I sleep there instead of going home”. I said. Well you might sleep there but my daughter is not going anywhere with you. Not now. Not Ever.
Well Phyllis still liked me, ‘septic she didn’t like takin her shoes off to get in the car so as not to get the white carpets dirty.
Lotsa times after a football game we’d all pile into Gerry’s sedan, (the reason it didn’t have a cloth top was, it was so rotten we just tore it out). This way we could stand up, shout and wave at people. We painted it white and had writing and drawings all over it. Kinda like the car in Archie comic books.
One chilly Halloween night Bud Wright had appropriated his dad’s 36 Dodge sedan. (Without his knowledge). We decided to find an outhouse to turn over, like we heard the old folks used to do. Now this was before ports potties were invented, and everyone now had indoor toilets so there weren’t any outhouses around.
They was a buildin’ a new radio station about 3 miles outa town in a field and the construction workers had built their own outhouse over a pit. Well with four of us a pullin’ on the backside and Bud and Henry pushin’ on the front, it finally toppled. We heard a large plop! And there was Bud standin’ chest deep in the pit. Well he had to sit on the front fender and hold onto the headlight all the way back to town. He said he would kill us if we drove anyplace where someone would see him. So we took him home and hosed him off.
In 1955, the hot Chevy V8 came on the scene and hot roddin’ changed forever. The economy was good and kids were makin $125.00 a week could now afford a new car for $200.00 per month and did. Almost everyone traded up to the mid 50’s cars with the hot overhead valve engines. Pete Miller still hung onto his 47 Stude Starlite coupe cuz it had a hollow compartment under each rear armrest. With a hole drilled in the bottom of them, they made a perfect ice chest to cool our beer in. New and larger groups were being formed from different parts of town, and some of our originals went off to the Korean War.
Rock and Roll was beginin’ to break loose. Earth Angel was the first I remember. Followed by The Great Pretender, Hearts of Stone, and Maybelline. Some of the artists were Bo Diddley, The Drifters, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, and the Platters. I still listen to ’em today.
Well it’s getting late and mamma’s a fixin pork chops for dinner. So I’ll tell ya about the end of the 50’s era next time.